Man United, RB Leipzig, Real Sociedad most impacted clubs as major European leagues struggle to resume

We're gonna play games! Maybe... possibly... at some point ... OK, who really knows? Germany is actually ready to resume the 2019-20 Bundesliga this weekend, while Spain (back in training!) and Italy (June 13!) are at different stages of inching toward a potential restart over the next two-plus months.

The French, Belgian, Dutch governments essentially ordered the current seasons to be cut short. And the Premier League? Well, the Premier League doesn't really seem to have any clear plan at all. (At least not yet.)

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As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the choke points in the Premier League table -- relegation, top four and the title -- typically don't change all that much over the final nine or 10 games. Given the precedent set in France and the general uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the possibility of more truncated seasons certainly still exists despite the various movements toward potential re-starts. But even if all of the remaining games are played, they won't be played in the same way: There won't be fans, and there might not even be home games for anyone.

For all intents and purposes, the last two months of the original 2019-20 schedule are gone forever. So, using projections from the consultancy 21st Club, let's take a look at which five teams across Europe's Big Five leagues will be most affected by the loss of the last 10 or so matches of the schedule.

Premier League: Manchester United

That's right. The richest club in England would also be the most justified in crying foul at a sudden season cancellation.

"The team that is most hard-done by the freezing of the current standings is Man United," said AJ Swoboda, managing director for the Americas at 21st Club. "Unlike Chelsea, they've played both Manchester City and Liverpool twice, and six of their remaining nine matches are against bottom-half teams. Our prediction model actually makes them slight favourites for the top four."

Per 21st Club's World Super League rating system, which aims to determine a club's underlying quality United are the third-best team in England, while Chelsea are sixth. (Leicester are fourth, and Spurs are fifth). Based on the average of opponents' WSL ratings and the venue of the remaining matches, United have the second-easiest schedule left in England. Only Wolves -- currently in sixth, two points back of United, five back of Chelsea -- have an easier run-in. Chelsea, meanwhile, have the sixth-toughest remaining fixture list, with five games against bottom-half sides cancelled out by the home game against City and a trip to Anfield.

At the other end of the table, West Ham are currently clear of the relegation zone only because of goal-difference. However, they have the third-easiest remaining fixture list, including matches against Aston Villa, Norwich and Watford -- all of whom are currently below them in the table. Someone should have mentioned this to Karren Brady.

Spain: Real Sociedad

The last time La Real qualified for the Champions League, Carlos Vela was their leading scorer, Antoine Griezmann was breaking into double-digit goals for the first time in his career, and 22-year-old Asier Illarramendi was dominating games from the midfield en route to a move to Real Madrid the following summer. Seven years later, Vela is dominating (in MLS), Griezmann is struggling at Barcelona, Illarramendi is back in the midfield, Sociedad have another star midfield prospect who's about to go to Madrid and they're sitting fourth in the La Liga table with 11 games to go.

"The biggest uncertainty remains around the race for the top four," Swoboda said. "Sevilla and Atlético Madrid have relatively easier schedules, especially compared to Real Sociedad, who must play four of the top five."

Martin Odegaard & Co. still have his parent club, Real Madrid, on the schedule, and their season theoretically ends with what might be the most decisive two-game stretch for any team in Europe: home against Sevilla, who are third, and away to Atletico, who are sixth but rate as the eighth-best team in the world and have a joint-league-high seven games remaining against teams in the bottom half of the table.

As for Barcelona and Madrid, they're separated by two points at the top, but there's not much fixture intrigue, as they have the second-easiest and easiest remaining schedules, respectively. Eighteenth-place Mallorca are just one point from safety, except that might just provide some false hope: They still have Sevilla, Atletico, Madrid and Barcelona left on the docket.

German Bundesliga: RB Leipzig

If someone was/is going to end Bayern Munich's seven-year reign atop the Bundesliga table this season, the challenge was/is slightly more likely to come from the team currently in third, rather than the one in second.

Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig have the second-best expected-goal differential in Germany this season, 21st Club rates them as the seventh-best team on the planet, and they have a relative cakewalk of a schedule remaining. Leipzig have the second-easiest set of fixtures still to play: More than half of their remaining matches are at home, two-thirds are against teams in the bottom half of the table and they play only one more game (home against Dortmund) against any of the Bundesliga's top seven. Plus, the two teams ahead of Leipzig have two of the league's tougher schedules: fifth-toughest for Bayern and seventh-toughest for Dortmund.

The window is open for Leipzig, but the five-point gap to first still ultimately makes a title run unlikely.

"Both Bayern and Dortmund have relatively tricky run-ins for the remainder of the season," Swoboda said. "But Bayern's lead and their higher quality -- we rate them as the best team in the world right now -- means that we give them an overwhelming chance of lifting the title should the season resume as planned."

Bayern, then, might be the unluckiest team in terms of the Champions League. They had all but assured safe passage to the quarterfinals with a first-leg demolition of Chelsea in the round of 16, while 21st Club's third-rated team in the world (Liverpool) were already eliminated, and the No. 6 side (Real Madrid) was on the verge of joining them. Had the tournament preceded as planned, Bayern likely would've been favorites to win it all.

Serie A: Everyone in the Relegation Fight

What a weird season. Atalanta -- who are currently in fourth in the table, 15 points back of first-place Juve -- have the best xG differential in the league by far. Per 21st Club's ratings, Serie A has four teams in the top 20 of the world, but none of them are in the top 10. In addition to their WSL rank, each team is given a specific rating. Manchester City, for example, are at 945. The gap in the WSL ratings between Juventus (highest-rated Serie A side) and Lazio (fourth) is smaller than the gap between the first- and fourth-best teams in the world: Bayern and Barcelona.

Put another way: Everyone in Italy's top four is worse than Manchester United but better than Arsenal.

Italy has a bunch of good teams, no great teams and just a single point separating first and second, which typically might make for a more interesting and more difficult-to-project run-in.

"Juventus and Lazio are neck-and-neck both in terms of points but also in difficulty of games remaining," Swoboda said. "Our prediction model gives Juventus a slight edge in the title race."

Inter Milan have a really easy run-in -- seven matches at home, seven matches against teams in the bottom half -- but that is mainly because their past two matches were against Lazio and Juve. They lost both and fell nine points back of first.

You might expect good teams to have easier schedules and bad teams to have harder schedules, since they can't, you know, play themselves, but that's not the case in Italy. The easiest schedule belongs to 17th-place Genoa, who are tied on points with 18th-place Lecce, who have the third-easiest remaining fixtures. In 19th, SPAL are seven points back of safety, but they also have the second-easiest run-in. Hell, even last-place Brescia have a slightly easier-than-average schedule still to play.

Meanwhile, even though Udinese are in 14th, three points clear of relegation, they still have to play Atalanta, Lazio and Juventus. If Serie A can return, expect a real Royal Rumble at the bottom.

Ligue 1: Lille (though the season's been decided)

This one has already been decided, as the French government shocked Ligue 1 by saying that there would be no professional soccer in the country until September. Ligue 1 opted to award the final-table standings based on points per game.

Amiens, who were four points from safety when the decision was made, have created a petition to "demand justice" and review Ligue 1's decision. While they had the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the league, 21st Club rates Amiens as the third-worst team in all of the Big Five leagues.

Lyon -- who finished seventh, one point back of the final Europa League spot -- are seeking millions of dollars in damages. They had the second-best goal differential in the league, they're the second-best French side, according to 21st Club, and they also have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule. However, the team most affected by the sudden cessation of the season is Lille.

They finished one point back of third-place Rennes for the final Champions League spot. The teams are rated as roughly equivalent by the 21st Club system, and Rennes still had the fifth-toughest remaining schedule, including games at home against Lyon and away to PSG, which is every French team's hardest fixture of the season. Lille, on the other hand, had the third-easiest remaining schedule, and they'd already taken four points from their two matches against Rennes.

And so, Christophe Galtier's side becomes the most prominent example of something that's only going to become more obvious over the next weeks and months: No matter how each league decides to end its season, the outcome is never going to be totally fair.